How Not to Succeed in The Art World

Without even knowing it, artists can sometimes sabotage their careers, compromise their reputations, reduce their chances of getting representation or shows, and discount or dismiss the recommendations of gallery owners or advisors or coaches or consultants or anyone else knowledgeable about how the art world works. Instead of achieving success like they think they're doing, they're more likely to end up among the ranks of the unknowns. For those of you who insist on oblivion, I hereby offer the most expedient means of attaining that status. So if you're ready to go nowhere, here's all you have to do:

* Spontaneously introduce yourself to anyone who you think has any standing in the art world and/or any ability-- real or perceived-- to buy, sell, broker, critique, review, advance, or otherwise represent you or your art. Start by saying something like, "I'm an artist." Other than that, make no attempt to explain why you're introducing yourself, how you know who they are, what the purpose of the introduction is, why you or your art is relevant to what they do, what you expect to accomplish by speaking with them, or what they can expect to accomplish by speaking with you.

* Pay no attention to how interested or disinterested anyone might be in either learning about your art, hearing your life story, or continuing any type of conversation with you regardless of the content. Just keep talking.

* Whenever and wherever possible say the following: "Hi, I'm an artist. Would you like to see my art?" You can do this in person, by phone, by email, by mail, etc.

* Whenever and wherever possible, ask people to look at your art, and then once they're looking at it ask, "So what do you think?" You can do this in person, by phone, by email, by mail, etc.

* In case anyone expresses interest in seeing your art or visiting your studio, make sure you have fewer than twenty pieces of finished work. The less you have, the better.

* Even though you have less than twenty finished works of art, continually contact established dealers and galleries internationally and ask for solo shows.

* Whenever you finish a work of art, wait for at least two weeks before you start a new one. This technique not only keeps your output low but also assures that you're continually out of practice.

* Believe that all you have to do to get known is stay in the studio, create art, show that art to no one, and make little or no effort to meet anyone in the local art community or by social networking online. Instead, believe that someday you'll be discovered.

* If you're selling out of your studio and someone shows interest in a particular artwork, immediately redirect them to a more expensive one whether or not it's similar to the one they're looking at. If they prefer an older piece of your work, tell them it's no good and that they should buy a more current one instead.

* When you're starting out, refuse to get a day job to supplement your income. That way, you put the maximum amount of stress and pressure on yourself and your art-making.

* Even though you may be relatively early in your career, have had few or no gallery shows, or have not yet established a reputation where you live or make art, email random requests to dealers and galleries all over the world asking them to show, buy, broker or represent your art.

* Even though you're not yet well known where you live or make art, present your art to the best galleries in your area, or better yet, to the best galleries in the world. Make sure these galleries exclusively represent nationally and internationally renowned artists.

* Buy email mailing lists of art dealers, collectors, critics, curators, and galleries. Then send mass spam emails addressed to "Dear Gallery Owner" or "Dear Collector" or "Dear Sir/Madam" or spend thousands of dollars printing up promotional materials and doing impersonal mass mailings to introduce yourself and your art.

* Pay to show your art at galleries that charge you to exhibit your work. The more expensive they are, the better. Not only does hardly anybody take these galleries seriously, but you'll very likely also sell nothing... and that way you'll go broke faster.

* Pay to be included in so-called books, magazines, or directories of promising artists, international artists, famous artists, whatever. The more it costs to get listed, the better. Not only does hardly anybody take these publiciations seriously, but combined with paying for shows, you'll go broke even faster.

* When you're at an art opening for another artist, no matter where it is or what type of art they show, approach the gallery owner and tell them you're interested in having them either represent you or show your work.

* When you're at an art opening for another artist, ask the artist to put in a good word for you or introduce you to the gallery owner so you can tell them about your art.

* When you contact a dealer or gallery either in person or by phone, email or mail, simply say you're an artist looking for representation. Make sure they have no idea why you're contacting them (other than they're an art gallery and you're an artist). Also make sure you have no idea why you're contacting them (other than they're an art gallery and you're an artist). Have no idea what kind of art they show, whether they sell the kind of art you make, what their history is, whether your art is priced comparably to the art they sell, or whether your resume compares favorably with those of the artists they represent.

* If you're invited to exhibit or participate in a gallery show, don't respond and offer no explanation why.

* Begin all email or mail correspondences to dealers or galleries with salutations like, "Dear Sir or Madam," "Dear Gallery Director," or "To Whom it May Concern." That way, the recipients can be sure you either have no idea who they are, don't care who they are, or don't think it's necessary to know who they are. Your goal is for them to hit "Delete" as fast as possible.

* Send out random emails to galleries, dealers, etc. that contain only the URL of your website and nothing else.

* Send out random emails to galleries, dealers, art critics, curators, etc. with nothing but 20 megabytes of images of your art. Or maybe include text like "My art" or "My latest art" or "If interested, please email me," however to really do this one right, leave out the word "please." And don't provide any information about who you are, why you're emailing them, where you live and work or how to contact you because anyone who wants to contact you will just hit the "Reply" button and email you that way, right? Right.

* Send out a random email to a gallery you don't know asking them to either show or represent your art. While you're at it, CC the email to 20 other galleries in the same area.

* When emailing or making contact with galleries or dealers, say stuff like, "What can you do for me?" or "I only want someone who's serious about selling art" or "Let's work together" (translation-- you sell my art while I do nothing).

* When you present your art to anyone for purposes of getting shows, sales or representation, make sure you have no coherent or unifying explanation for what you do, why you do it, or what your guiding inspirations or principles are. Also make sure you're totally disorganized. Show everything you've ever made, no matter what it looks like, whether or not you think it's any good, whether or not it relates to what you're making now-- and make sure it's not in any order. Make no attempt to point out any connections, similarities, or continuities between any examples of your work. Your goal is to completely confuse whoever's looking at it.

* Even though you're not that well known, spend thousands of dollars building a website. Ignore the fact that finding you, your art or your website on the Internet will be almost impossible except for people who already know you. As soon as your website is finished and online, believe that sales will just roll in. Make no further attempts to show or sell your art anywhere in the either the online or physical worlds other than occasionally telling or emailing people to visit your website.

* Make sure the only contact information you provide on your website is one of those forms where you fill in fields and click a "submit" button. The less personal information you provide, the more reluctant people will be to contact you. Better yet, provide no contact information at all. That way, anyone who does happen to be interested in your art won't be able to find you.

* Make sure your art is not priced on our website. And in case anyone is interested in buying anything, provide no instructions about how to buy it.

* Make sure the art on your website is not organized or displayed in any order and provide as little explanatory text as possible. Just dump it all on there. Your goal is to confuse, frustrate and discourage visitors as fast as possible.

* Don't do any social networking. Why? Because you're better than that.

* If you are on social networking websites, continually post images of your art with captions like "My art" or "My latest art" or "Art I'm currently working on" etc. Better yet, post the images only with no accompanying text or explanations. Better yet, continually repost irrelevant videos that have already been viewed at least 20 million times.

* Email total strangers about your online fundraising campaign and ask them for money.

* Email total strangers about a contest or competition you're in and ask them to vote for you.

* Make sure you have no artist statement, no explanation for why your art looks like it does, what it represents, how it's evolved over time, or why you make the kind of art you make.

* Make sure you have no idea how to price your art. If someone asks you how much a piece of your art costs, tell them you don't know. Better yet, ask them how much they think it's worth. If they suggest a dollar amount, stand there and say nothing.

* If your art is priced and for sale and someone asks you why a certain piece costs as much as it does, either tell them that's how much it's worth, that's how much you want for it, or that you don't know.

* If someone asks any kind of questions about your prices or seems a bit uncomfortable with how much they are, tell them your art is cheap compared to (insert name of famous artist here).

* Never respond to feedback about your art. If anyone gives you feedback, ignore it. This way, you'll have no idea what people think about your art, whether they understand it, whether they like it, what they like about it, whether it comes across as effectively as you think it does, what gets the most or least attention, why people either buy or don't buy it, etc. The only person who matters is you.

* Constantly complain about who the galleries are showing, who the museums are showing, artists who get lots of exposure or attention, your lack of being recognized, ignorant collectors, clueless critics and as many other aspects of the art world as possible.

* Make sure you're late whenever you have an appointment to show your art. Better yet, cancel the appointment once or twice first and then make sure you're late.

* If you've got a deadline to have your art ready for a show, miss it. If you've got a deadline to have your statement, bio or resume ready for a show, catalog or website, miss it. If an you have a deadline to submit a grant, residency or exhibition application, send it in late.

* Assume that everyone understands your art as well as you do. Assume also that understanding your art is the viewer's responsibility, not yours.

* Disagree with as many comments about your art as possible.

* When people ask you questions about your art, act like they're idiots and should know better.

* As often as possible, when people tell you how they interpret your art or what they see in it, tell them they're wrong. Then tell them what they should be thinking or seeing.

* When someone asks a question about your art, instead of answering it, ask a question right back.

* If you get a show, contact other "better" galleries as soon as possible, preferably before the show even opens. Tell them about the show you'll be having and say you'd really rather show with them.

* Make sure dealers who currently represent or show your art know that you can hardly wait to blow them off and move on to someone better.

* While you're having a show or are currently represented by a gallery, take every opportunity to sell art out of your studio, on social media or off of your website directly to buyers for less than the gallery is selling it for.

* When your gallery show is close to being over, email your contacts stating that as soon as the show is over, you're going to drop your prices and sell your art directly to any interested buyers.

* Make sure not to cultivate or respect any business relationships or agreements, especially ones that work. The only thing that matters is for you to move up in the art world regardless of how you do it.

* Believe that if one gallery or dealer can sell your art, all galleries or dealers can sell it.

* Believe that your art sells itself, not the gallery or dealer who's selling it for you.

* Talk about attorneys, suing people, your legal rights as an artist, what happens if someone crosses you, that you don't want anyone reproducing images of your art, that you don't want anyone photographing your art, that you keep track of everyone who you send images of your art, and so on. In short, be as threatening and unpleasant to deal with as possible.

* Try to figure out as fast as you can whether the person you're talking to is worth talking to. If you decide they're not worth talking to, either turn around and leave immediately or start talking to someone else.

* Ignore any suggestions anyone makes about any aspect of how you present yourself or your art.

* And last but certainly not least, never do anything for anybody unless there's something in it for you.


Contact the author, Alan Bamberger


(art by Charles Valoroso)

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